Monday, September 20, 2010

Some non-partisan background on Sarah Palin

I'm not even sure that I can be classified as a "Palin fan", but I am kind of an observer. An old school buddy of mine has worked within the Alaska legislature for the last twenty years or so. He's a registered Democrat and has worked on projects that allowed him to cross paths with her going back when she was a city commissioner, as the mayor, and as the governor.

He told me that the picture painted of her as a mindless ideologue is about 180 degrees off base. He said that over the years, he'd probably dealt with her a couple of dozen times and that her input and/or decisions were always supported by law and not by personal beliefs.

The thing he told me about her that really peaked my interest of her was her ability to process information and then to quickly forge a plan with the information she was given. He said she was a living, breathing CPM chart. He said he had seen her on multiple occasions on a variety of subjects instantly absorb input from others and then respond with cogent solutions to problems. He said if you put her in a room with a bunch of people, the chances would be great that she'd be the smartest one in the room.

He told me that when he saw her debacle with Katie Couric, his first thought was, "who is that Sarah Palin imposter?" He said that was not the Sarah Palin he had worked with for years. He was sure that the interview was highly edited. It came out later that there was almost six hours of the interview that people didn't see.

He told me that if I really wanted to get a feel of who she is and how she dealt with powerful people, I should read the book, "Sarah Takes On Big Oil". It was released in October, 2008 and written by two of the state's top oil & gas editors. The lady they described had no fear to stand toe-to-toe with heavyweights and leave them slinking away with their tales between their legs. She told them that she was the advocate of the citizens of Alaska and there would be no deal making that would adversely affect them. The big boys at Exxon-Mobile and BP folded like a cheap suit.

One other thing he told me that still amazes him was how she managed to get people to work together. According to him, she could take two people with opposing opinions, sit down with them, listen to them, offer her solutions, and both guys would leave happy and not feeling that they had compromised their position at all.

He laughed at the "she doesn't read" meme. He said it is well known in the capitol that she was a voracious reader. She truly did read most of the national mags and newspapers, mostly on line, as well as a dozen or so energy trade magazines. According to him, there were stories about how she would take home stacks of papers and reports to prepare for a next-morning meeting and it was as if every word of those reports were stamped into her brain when she sat down at the meeting.

He told me not to be fooled by her syntax or her colloquialisms because they were not a fair barometer of her smarts. He said if people would just listen and not try to read between the lines, she was easy to understand. He said he'd love to see her and Obama in a debate about energy or even healthcare. He said she'd clean his clock. He even said that if she were given a day or two to prepare for a debate on foreign affairs, his money would still be on her.

He said she was the epitome of a leader. She assembled her staff, listened to their advice, allowed opposing ideas to be heard, and then acted accordingly. As a manager, she advocated making a plan based on the best info available, budgeting the plan, working the plan, measuring results, and quickly adjusting the plan if it was determined it wasn't working as expected. She believed in the First Law of Holes.

He thought her biggest struggles in the 2008 campaign were the product of trying to endorse McCain's positions on issues. She was able to voice her dissenting opinion on ANWR because her views were known, but on everything else she was expected to toe the McCain line. He said that she lacked the ability to shovel crap and sell it as perfume.

He reminded me that anyone who denies the accuracy of her "death panel" metaphor should go back and read her exact words, both her initial FB post and her rebuttal of Obama's attack on her words. He said "read what she wrote, not what someone wrote or said what she wrote". Her words in those posts have already been proven to be true.

He said that "divisive" is not a word that should be used to describe her. He said that was just a simple use of Alinsky's rule #13. He said, "look at all the issues. Her position is in line with the majority on virtually all of them".

He told me she wasn't perfect, but if I read something or heard something that was negative, I should check it out a little closer. He shared a lot more, but I'm afraid I've already rambled on for too long.

Should she run in 2012? I really don't know. Would I vote for her? It depends who she's running against. Will she drive the agenda if she doesn't run? Yes, for a long time.



Trouble in Welfare-State Paradise: France, Sweden and Cuba

Welfare states are unstable, and tend either to give way to free market reforms and liberalization, to collapse under their own weight, or to fall down the slippery slope of interventionism and degenerate into authoritarian regimes.

For as long as I can recall, and certainly for decades before I was born, the American left had a romantic attachment to the welfare states of the rest of the world. Unsatisfied with America’s own burgeoning 20th-century entitlement systems, left-liberals would point to the more domestically interventionist governments abroad as examples showing that some form of social democracy, or even outright socialism, was preferable to the United States’s alleged free market. In these more civilized countries, so goes the progressive narrative, health care and jobs are provided by the government, no one has to pay personally for anything that’s really important — a “safety net” would prevent people from growing old without financial support or getting sick without the comfort of subsidized health care.

This narrative typically neglects America’s own history with welfare, which demonstrates that the market and voluntary community will produce a far better, more humane, efficient and reliable, safety net than anything we can expect from the state. Instead, we were supposed to look to places like France or Sweden as inspiration of what government could do here in America. We should even look to Cuba, where something akin to mild communism was allegedly working well.

Well, in France, the government is on the brink of raising the retirement age to 62, much to the impassioned cries from the French left. Much as in the case of America’s own socialist retirement program, the accounting never adds up as promised. Idealists protest this effective cut in government benefits, but such cuts cannot be avoided forever. Meanwhile, another news story illustrates the fact that welfare states, even admired and civilized ones such as France, tend to have a police state side.

The issues are connected, as a government that cares for all cradle to grave, a state that acts as a parent, must also exercise control over its subjects, and show a great interest in who is coming into the country or leaving, and what they are doing with their lives and bodies. So France is in hot water for its round ups and deportation of Gypsies. The nation’s leaders understandably resent the comparisons to the Nazis being thrown around. The Nazis did, in fact, go much further in their brutality. And they also went further in their welfare statism and economic regulation—a truth often forgotten.

As an aside, anti-immigration voices in the U.S. often point out that most other countries have even more severe border controls and immigration policies than are found in the United States. But do we want to be more like France, either in immigration policy or welfare policy? It is revealing that in American history, the further we have moved from free markets and limited government, the more anti-immigration scapegoating has been manifested in actual crackdowns.

We used to have more open immigration and less welfare. The more America becomes a full-blown welfare state, the more pressure there is for America to resemble the rest of the welfare states in their exclusion of immigrants. There is a logic here for the left to consider: If you champion the human rights of immigrants, rethink your devotion to the inherently nationalistic welfare state. If we go the route of France in terms of entitlements, increased social tension and worse nativism will be on their way.

Looking over to Sweden, we see this left-liberal utopia on the verge of major privatization plans. Their system, too, is unsustainable as it is. And their welfarism has also bred police state approaches to immigration, drugs and other social issues.

The very far-right anti-immigration party has been gaining ground, and it looks like the center-right coalition will have a firm grasp of the state after the elections next week. The greens and social democrats are teeming up with former communists to try to maintain power. But the center-right, which has been running the government and whose tax cuts and reform approach to welfare have been associated with improvements for the economy, looks like a shoo-in. As the AP puts it:
Swedish politics used to be like a long marriage with brief spells of infidelity.

Voters always returned to the long-governing Social Democrats – guardians of the Nordic country’s high-tax welfare state – after short-lived flirts with center-right coalitions.

That love story, it appears, may be coming to an end as Sweden heads into national elections Sept. 19.

Update: The conservative coalition fell just short of an overall majority and the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats gained an unprecedented 20 seats, making them the kingmakers. The socialists lost big-time -- JR

But what about Cuba? The more daring progressives have always pointed to this purported example of even something resembling communism working. Well, although he has apparently retracted his statement somewhat, Castro himself admitted publicly that the Cuban model is a failure. He has also apologized for his regime’s unspeakably brutal treatment of gays. This raises another point for the left to consider. The regime they have long defended as enlightened and progressive had some of the most notoriously cruel policies toward gays—but this is often shrugged off as irrelevant to the question of Cuba’s political economy. If George W. Bush had been 1/10 as criminal in enforcing policies against gays, it would have been held up as a prime example of the inhumanity behind his entire alleged ideology of compassionate conservatism. If an American conservative were as bad on homosexual rights as Castro was, he would not be embraced by practically any leftist, no matter what else he stood for. But the Cuban regime has long gotten a pass, because of its free health care system.

We must remember that it is big governments—almost always with the bought support of the people through welfare-state handouts—that segregate, crack down, round up, deport, torture, mass murder and exterminate. It is not usually small governments that do these things. Just as with every socialist state in the modern era, Cuba’s welfarism and its police statism are inextricably linked.

But there is hope for Cuba, that it will liberalize and its socialism will give way to something more humane and economically manageable. Castro seems to be speaking out of both sides of his mouth, but you don’t have to take his word for anything. Actions speak louder than a dictator’s utterances. Cuba is cutting one million public sector jobs—a significant and clear reduction in the size of government, especially considering the nation’s entire population of about eleven million.

The age of the modern entitlement state appears to be in a transition period—and maybe, let’s hope, its final stage. It looks like most of the welfare states around the world are changing, either giving way to rightwing politics, for better and worse, liberalizing voluntarily, or otherwise demonstrating the unsustainability of their current forms. Sweden is no longer a social democratic model. France is turning toward conservatism. Cuba is slashing government. Moreover, there have been welfare riots and strikes throughout much of Europe. And of course China, while still nominally communist, has been liberalizing radically ever since the Mao years—providing the world with perhaps the most inspiring modern example of a nation moving from enslavement under the total state toward freedom, and particularly when we consider how many people’s lives are at stake.

But one country is not moving toward liberalization and free markets, and that is the United States. While the world’s socialist and welfare states are retreating from the politics of entitlement, the U.S. is still on its century-long course in that dismal direction. Last year, Putin famously warned Obama not to travel down the road of socialism, which had brought so much misery to the Russian people. And it’s not just Democrats getting such embarrassing warnings. After the 2008 financial bailouts, Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez backhandedly called President George W. Bush his “comrade” who was “to the left of me now.”

Let us hope things turn around sooner rather than later. The U.S. welfare state will give way eventually, but it will be none too pretty should the collapse of the U.S. entitlement state be delayed much longer.




Russia signs $3.7 billion deal for 50 Boeing 737s: "A Russian state-owned company said Friday it will pay $3.7 billion for 50 new Boeing 737 Next Generation airliners that will then be leased to the national carrier Aeroflot. Russian Technologies, which manages the government’s stakes in a dozen regional airlines, said in a statement that the deal includes an option to buy a further 35 jetliners.”

Old theory of Keynesian stimulus comes up against hard new facts: "The Republican alternative to more fiscal stimulus says [Dana] Milbank, is for government to ‘do nothing, and let the human misery continue.’ Any doubts about the efficacy of fiscal stimulus, he argues, were discredited by the remarkable discovery that recessions still happen: ‘Economists offering alternatives to Keynes devised mathematical models showing how markets would behave efficiently. But those ideas collapsed along with everything else in 2008.’ This is ignorant nonsense. Efficiency never meant markets can’t be surprised and crash. Besides, academic criticism of fiscal stimulus is mainly based on fact, not theory.”

There is a new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc.


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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